Titles Of Ciceros Essays

E. Spettigue, Printer, 67, Chancery Lane.


The science of politics, on which the prosperity of nations has ever depended, has become intensely important to the welfare of the British Empire during the present crisis of public affairs.

This science is confessed by all to be an ennobling and enlarging study, singularly august in theory, and almost illimitable in application. But we need not here anticipate the panegyrics which our author has bestowed on it.

We wish to see the science of politics extensively studied in these eventful times, because the more profoundly and universally it is understood, the more likely are we to attain that spirit of Catholicity, Union, and Coalition, which is the best safeguard against the schisms, sects, parties, and factions, that so miserably lacerate our national constitution, and undermine its strength and beauty.

The more politics are studied as a science,—a Edition: current; Page: [viii]science of the loftiest dialectics and purest logic,—a science which demands from the truth–searcher whole years of arduous ratiocination, as subtle and severe as that applied to mathematics, and equally remote from the bias of party prejudices and passions,—a science, which, being the last effort of human genius working on human experience, seeks its proofs and illustrations from the history of all times and states;—the more chance shall we have of rearing senators worthy of the name, and of elaborating a system of laws, entitled to the veneration of posterity.

The science of politics and laws divides itself into two principal branches. First, the divine or theologic, from whence spring the ecclesiastical economies. This branch is treated at large by the inspired writers, the Jewish and Christian fathers, as Philo and Origen, and a great number of ecclesiastical lawyers.

The second grand branch of politics and laws, is the natural and national, the law of Nature and Nations, from whence arise the civil and municipal laws of particular states and provinces. This likewise has been treated at large by the sacred writers, and the Jewish and Christian fathers, particularly Augustine. Much information on this branch may be found in Selden’s famous Treatise “on the Law of Nature and Nations, according to the discipline of the Hebrews,” Edition: current; Page: [ix]and the works of Grotius, Puffendorf, Cumberland, Mackintosh, and others on the law of nations in general.

These two catholic branches of divine or theologic, and natural or national law, are reflected in the particular ecclesiastical and civil systems of the chief nations of antiquity; and if the student desires to follow them into their successive developements, he will find plenty of authors ready to assist him.

If he would inquire, for instance, into the ecclesiastical and civil polity, and laws of the Hebrews, he may consult Philo, Maimonides, Aben Ezra, Menochius, Spencer, Selden, Michaelis, Pastoret, Lewis, Lowman, and others.

For the ecclesiastical and civil jurisprudence of the Assyrian, Persian, and other oriental empires, let him read Psellus, Kircher, Hottinger, Pastoret, Confucius, Selden, Zoroaster, Sale, Hyde, Anquetil, D’Ohson, Sir W. Jones, and other investigators.

Respecting the ecclesiastical and civil constitutions of Grecian and Roman states, he must examine Keckerman, Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Potter, Taylor, Rollin, Gillies, Montesquieu, Montague, and their followers.

Of all these constitutional systems of the ancient world, by far the most important to the political student is that of Rome, which became the fruitful parent of all the constitutions of the Edition: current; Page: [x]middle ages in Europe, and those which subsist therein to the present day.

Concerning the history and character, the merits and defects of this Roman Constitution, Cicero has ever been considered the chief light and authority. Hence the fragments of Cicero’s Political Works were translated into most modern languages, and expounded by authors, no less illustrious than Mirandola, Vives, Scaliger, Campanella, Bodinus, Bellendenus, Bernardi, and Montesquieu. And when of late, by the ingenuity of Mai, the long–lost Treatise of Cicero on the Republic was recovered, it was instantly translated into German and French, and commented on by Savigny, Heeren, Sismondi, Guizot, Niebuhr, Pierre, Villemain, Constant, and Lerminier.

We know not why the British have been so much more negligent than their continental neighbours in translating the chief works of the fathers of the Church, and the classical writers of the schools. Our fellow–countrymen have indeed, in this respect, done better justice to the illustrious Cicero than to many of the Latin writers, as they have already translated his moral, philosophical, and oratorical treatises; but still, with regard to his political works, his Commonwealth and Laws, the most important and interesting of all, these have never yet been translated in this kingdom.

We, therefore, imagine it is doing justice to Edition: current; Page: [xi]Cicero, and fair service to our fellow countrymen, to translate his Political Works for the benefit of the British public.

Certainly, no Roman writer on politics is entitled to deeper respect from the British than Cicero; and this not only on account of his sublime genius, his vast experience, and his patriotic magnanimity, which were before acknowledged; but more especially for this reason, that in his newly–recovered Commonwealth we find him extolling the very political constitution which he indeed ventured to hope, and which we have so fortunately realized. We find him praising a limited monarchy, comprising King, Lords, and Commons, as the only government which can permanently establish the glory and prosperity of a state.

In this respect, Cicero, like several of the ancient politicians, was a catholic, unionist, or syncretist in policy, as openly as he was an eclectic in philosophy. If any doubt remained on this subject, it is for ever removed by the new–found Commonwealth, in which he evidently declares himself too great a man for party. He here assumes a station above all sects and schisms, which enables him to embrace whatever is good in all parties and factions, and at the same time to lash their errors and corruptions with unsparing satire.

Edition: current; Page: [xii]

It is neccessary to state that Cicero used the word Republic or Commonwealth in a general sense, just as we use the word constitution or state. In his idea, a true republic, or commonwealth properly so called, should include the specific forms of royalty, aristocracy, and democracy; but it is not to be confounded with either of these specific forms in particular. Unhappily, the scientific precision with which Cicero employs these political terms has been neglected by many modern authors; and thus the most important and essential distinctions of government have been perplexed by a careless and conflicting nomenclature.

In order to make this English translation of Cicero’s Political Works as complete as possible, we shall endeavour to accomplish the following design.

  • I. A Review of the Life and Politics of Cicero.
  • II. A Review of the History of Cicero’s Commonwealth.
  • III. A Translation of Cicero’s Commonwealth, with Notes.
  • IV. A Review of the History of Cicero’s Treatise on Laws.
  • V. A Translation of Cicero’s Laws with Notes.

With the Political Works of Cicero every man who pretends to the character of a senator or a Edition: current; Page: [xiii]lawyer, in the higher sense of the word, ought to be familiar. And yet how few of our statesmen or jurisconsults now–a–days, are acquainted with the great current of classical authorities and decisions, in the very science they profess to teach. They have renounced the viginti annorum lucubrationes which Lord Coke recommends, for the præpropera lectio et præpostera praxis, which he so sternly censures. Of old time, there was no royal road to the science of Politics, any more than to that of Mathematics; but now every man is born a politician, “and fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

We shall think ourselves happy, if this Translation of Cicero’s Political Works shall revive a higher and more philosophic study of the science of politics, properly so called—a study which has taxed the intelligence and elicited the eloquence of the noblest sages, philanthropists, and patriots that have ever “lived upon the tide of time.”

Such being the translator’s design, he has a right to expect benignant and liberal treatment from that higher order of critics who can appreciate the national importance of such undertakings, and who will rather praise an author for his general merits, than satyrize him for occasional lapses and mistakes. And if in the present work either “the unsteadiness of attention, or the uncertainty of conjecture,” has betrayed him Edition: current; Page: [xiv]into those defects from which no translation can be entirely free, he will solicit his reader’s pardon as frankly as he would accord it under similar circumstances.

It fortunately happens that those portions of Cicero’s Republic which have been recovered, contain the three first and most important books, in which he unfolds his grand political principles; and that the three latter books, which related to the offices of sacred and civil magistrates, are admirably supplied by those three books of his Treatise on Laws in which magisterial duties are expounded. And thus, by a most propitious coincidence of discoveries, we are enabled to present the public with all the more valuable and interesting portions of Cicero’s Politics and Laws, of which the lost fragments were probably little more than developements or illustrations.

Of this noble text book of Political and Civil Laws, the Cyclopædia Britannica says, “this is the most valuable contribution to national literature which has appeared in modern times.”

In translating this work, we occasionally availed ourselves of the critical German version of Pierre, published in 1824. In his spirited Preface a remark occurs, so true and graphic that we venture to paraphrase it. It is not (says he) from the perusal of Cyclopedias and Compendiums that we can gain a masterly knowledge of the science of politics,Edition: current; Page: [xv]nor indeed any other science. In acquiring the sciences, we must ascend to the deep original fountains of them. We must make ourselves familiarly conversant with the master minds of the ancients, who have elaborated the relations of truth, from the depths of their own souls,—we must apply to spirits who have thought out philosophies for themselves; for that which rises from spirit excites spirit.—Genius is the power of eliciting power in other minds, just as the magnetic pole of the earth imparts its electric property to the magnetic needles that guide the mariner.—(Gründliche Gelehrsamkeit und Thätigkeit des Geistes wird nur durch das Studium der Werke selbst, worin die Wissenschaften ausführlich behandelt werden, erlangt, und vorzüglich geschieht dieses durch die Werke der Alten; denn in ihnen ist Alles selbst gedacht, und was vom Geiste ausgehet, das regt auch den Geist wieder an, wie der Magnet an den Polen der Erde alle Magnetnadeln der Seefahrer an sich zieht und ihnen ihre Richtung giebt.)

We cannot conclude without expressing our obligations, likewise, to M. Villemain, the French editor and translator of the newly–recovered Commonwealth, and to M. Morabin, the French editor and translator of the Treatise on Laws. In endeavouring to convey the true sense and force of the Latin originals, we have not hesitated frequently to Edition: current; Page: [xvi]adopt the happy turns of phraseology which these elegant French scholars have employed. Nor do we feel any compunction in having thus freely availed ourselves of foreign versions which have been so universally applauded by competent judges. Not to have used these versions, would have been literary prudery; and not to confess that we had used them, inexcusable plagiarism.

It is, perhaps, necessary to add, that many passages of the original are so obscure, owing either to an error of the text, or a remote allusion to certain customs of antiquity, that the critics have been extremely puzzled at them, and have often explained them in very different ways. This difficulty has hitherto deterred English scholars from translating these works, and should in the present case mitigate the severity of the censorious, who find it easier to carp than to excel. Wherever these intricate sentences occur, we have endeavoured to give the sense that appeared most sensible, and most congenial to the context. In such ambiguous phrases, to which, perhaps, no translator can do full justice, our interpretation has been confirmed by the opinion of the learned friends we have consulted; but they still admit of being rendered, by other turns of expression, more or less plausible.


The life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the father of Roman eloquence, has been drawn by a multitude of able historians in all the nations of Europe. Among these we may mention the names of Plutarch, Cornelius Nepos, Boethius, Rapin, Erasmus, Scaliger, Bellendenus, Olivet, Middleton, and Melmoth, not to cite the later writers.

As the leading facts of Cicero’s biography are noticed in all cyclopedias and biographical dictionaries, it is unnecessary to present them in any thing like detail at present, for this would be needless repetition.

Suffice it to say, he was born at Arpinum, b. c. 107, a. u. 647. His father was a Roman knight, descended from Titus Tatius, king of the Sabines. “In his very youth (we quote the words of Moreri), he pleaded with so much freedom against Edition: current; Page: [2]Sylla’s friends, that fearing the resentment of one that spared nobody, he travelled into Greece, and heard Antiochus, of Ascalon, an academic philosopher at Athens. Thence he past into Asia, seeking still the perfection of eloquence. He became the disciple of Xenocles, Dionysius, Menippus, and afterwards studied at Rhodes, under Apollonius Molon, the most eloquent man of his time. Molon being at one of Cicero’s orations, could not avoid crying out that the deplored the misfortune of Greece, which being already conquered by the Romans, was then likely to lose by his scholar’s eloquence the only advantage she had left over her victorious enemies. Hence Cicero came to Rome, where, in consideration of his great parts, he obtained Sicily, and was made questor of Rome. When he was chosen Ædile, he condemned Veres, to make satisfaction for the violences and extortions he had committed. In 691 (a. u.) he was consul with Antonius Nepos, during which consulship he discovered Cataline’s conspiracy, and punished the accomplices, for which he was styled Preserver of the Commonwealth; yet in a. u. 696, he was banished, through the envy, and by the practices of Clodius and others. But the people shewed such concern for his misfortunes, that he was recalled the next year at the request of Pompey, who had a hand in his exile. After this Cicero, Edition: current; Page: [3]at his return from Cilicia, where he was proconsul, a. u. 702, followed Pompey in the civil wars, after whose death, in 706, he was pardoned by Cæsar, whom he reconciled to Ligarius. He had no hand in that prince’s death, though he was an intimate friend of Brutus. But after this murder he favoured Augustus, who desired to be consul with him, and proposed a general amnesty. But the interest of Augustus made him take other measures, and join with Antony and Lepidus in the triumvirate. Antony making use of his power, and hating Cicero extremely, by reason of the orations he wrote against him, which we call Phillipics, got him pursued and beheaded in the 711th year of Rome, forty–three years before the Christian æra, and in the 64th year of his age. His executioner was one Popilius, whom he had formerly defended against some who accused him of having killed his father. His many works are well known: as his books, De Inventione—his Orations, Epistles, Philosophical Questions, De Finibus — his Tusculans; with his works de Natura Deorum, Amicitia, Senectute, De Republica, De Legibus, &c. It is said that he wrote three books of verse, concerning what had befallen him during his consulship.”

We must now take a brief view of Cicero’s character and opinions, as they are sketched by his admirable English biographer, Middleton. He Edition: current; Page: [4]evinces, beyond contradiction, the fact that Cicero preferred the divine, theocratic, Catholic, and Eclectic, philosophy of the Academic Platonists, to that sectarian dogmatism which prevailed among the Stoics, Peripatetics, Epicureans, and other partisans. “Thus (says Cicero, Acad. 2, 3,) we preserve our judgment free and unprejudiced, and are under no necessity of defending what is prescribed and enjoined to us; whereas, all the other sects of men are tied down to certain doctrines, before they are capable of judging what is best; and in the most infirm part of life, drawn either by the authority of a friend, or charmed with the first master whom they happen to hear; they form a judgment of things unknown to them, and to whatever school they chance to be driven by the tide, cleave to it as fast as the oyster to the rock.”

“As this syncretic or academic school (says Middleton) was in no particular opposition to any, but an equal adversary of all, or rather to dogmatical philosophy in general, so every other sect next to itself readily gave it the preference to the rest, which universal concession of the second place is commonly thought to infer a right to the first. The academic manner of philosophizing was of all others the most rational and modest, and the best adapted to the discovery of truth, whose peculiar character it is to encourage inquiry, Edition: current; Page: [5]to sift every question to the bottom, to try the force of every argument till it has found its real moment, and the precise quantity of its weight.”

This same spirit of Catholicism or Unionism — this leading principle of the syncretic, eclectic, and coalitionary philosophy—Cicero carried into politics; and thus he endeavoured to reconcile those sects, parties and factions, whose increase he foretold would prove the inevitable ruin of his country—a prophecy which was afterwards most awfully fulfilled, as Montesquieu has proved at large in his “Grandeur and Decline of the Roman empire.”

“As to Cicero’s political conduct (says Middleton), no man was ever a more determined patriot or a warmer lover of his country than he. His whole character, natural temper, choice of life, and principles, made its true interest inseparable from his own. His general view, therefore, was always one and the same—to support the peace and liberty of the commonwealth in that form and constitution of it which their ancestors had delivered down to them. He looked on that as the only foundation on which it could be supported, and used to quote a verse of old Ennius’s as the dictate of an oracle, which derived all the glory of Rome from an adherence to its ancient manners and discipline,

“Moribus antiquis stat, res Romana virisque.”

Edition: current; Page: [6]

It is one of his maxims that he inculcates in his writings—“that as the end of a pilot is a prosperous voyage; of a physician, the health of his patients—of a general, victory—so that of a statesman is to make the citizens happy, to make them firm in power, rich in wealth, splendid in glory, and eminent in virtue, which is the greatest and best of all the works among men.”

“And as this cannot be effected but by the concord and harmony of the constituent members of a city, so it was his constant aim to unite the different orders of the state into one common interest, and to inspire them with a mutual confidence in each other. For, says he, quæ harmonia a musicis dicitur in cantu, ea est in civitate concordia arctissimum atque optimum omni in Republica vinculum incolumitatis. ‘What harmony is to musicians, that is concord to states. Concord is the strongest and best bond of security to all nations.’

“Cicero, therefore, (continues Middleton) endeavoured so to balance the power of the people by the authority of the Senate, that the one should enact, but the other advise; the one have the last appeal, and the other the chief influence.

“For (says he) when the Senate is the regulator of public opinion, we find from this distribution of rights, namely, of authority to the Senate, and of power to the people, that the state is maintained in equilibrium and harmony. This was Edition: current; Page: [7]the old constitution of Rome, by which it raised itself to all its grandeur: while all its misforfortunes were owing to the contrary principle of distrust and dissension between these two rival powers. It was the great object, therefore, of Cicero’s policy, to throw the ascendant in all affairs into the hands of the Senate and the Magistrates, as far as was consistent with the rights and liberties of the people; which will always be the general view of the wise and honest in all popular governments.” So far Middleton.

Such being the strong preference of Cicero for the Catholic, Syncretic, Unionistic, and Universal policy, which includes all the particular forms of government, it may be worth while to take a brief review of these particular forms, in order to gain a clearer notion of the Ciceronian theory.

The Catholic, Syncretic, or Unionistic government is, in fact, the same as that which is called the mixed government by most modern politicians. Insomuch as union necessarily excels and precedes division and partition, this kind of government is essentially more sublime and ancient than any of its particular components. Hence there is some degree of incorrectness in the application of the word ‘mixed’ to this universal government, as it seems to postpone its history, and to complicate its theory. It is, however, useful in disquisitions of this kind, just because it is Edition: current; Page: [8]more popularly understood than more scholastic terms; and we shall not hesitate to avail ourselves of it.

The Syncretic, Universal, or Mixed government then, which Cicero, like many of the sages of antiquity, preferred to all particular forms of government whatsoever, included and harmonized all those partial systems which pass under the names of patriarchal, monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic institutions.

The divine and theocratic form of government, when closely examined, will be found to be analogous in many of its elemental features to the Catholic or Syncretic policy. All these terms are analogous, and all imply a system of divine dominations, perfectly regular and complete, capable of embracing all just authorities, and of holding them in a state of perfect coalition, harmony, and co–operation, from the highest to the lowest.

The first development of the syncretic and mixed policy, is that form of government which is called the Patriarchal or Paternal. The power of patriarchs has in all ages been accounted higher, wider, and more absolute than that of any of the emperors, kings, aristocrats, or democrats that subsequently arose.

This aboriginal and supreme form of government, entitled the patriarchal, has been lauded Edition: current; Page: [9]as the earliest and best, by Philo, Plutarch, Selden, Bossuet, Filmer, Michaelis, Pastoret, and most of the commentators on the political history of the Jews. The patriarchs, and, as they were subsequently called the Judges, of the Jewish nation, were in fact theocratic legislators: they combined an absolute ecclesiastical and civil power, universal and indefeasible.

Sir Robert Filmer has evinced, beyond contradiction, the priority and superiority of the patriarchal power. He has shewn that the beautiful principle of paternal government and hereditary succession is the natural and proper foundation of human government.

In this respect Gerson, Bossuet, Du Pin, and other Catholic writers are perfectly right. When they entitle the pope a patriarch, they acknowledge that so far as precedence of rank is concerned, he stands as much above all emperors and kings, as they stand above all archbishops and bishops. The patriarchal power of the pope should not, however, extend beyond his own dominions. Emperors and kings should be supreme within their own territories in ecclesiastieal as well as civil matters; for they ought to be as much defenders of the universal faith of their subjects, as they are of their universal rights.

The patriarchal theory, which shews us that we must trace the true origin of monarchical and Edition: current; Page: [10]aristocratic power to the paternal principle of hereditary succession, is of the greatest value. By Filmer’s doctrine, we consider our princes and nobles as the personal representatives of the oldest families; and as such entitled to the same deference and respect as attach to priority of birth and seniority of age, in all national clans and private families. The able politician Heeren has recently shewn that the theory which makes all government merely a matter of popular compact and election, though supported by Locke and his followers, is fraught with all the perils of Rousseau’s “social compact,” and tends to produce republicanism and revolution.

These remarks would indicate the truth of what the admirable Selden observes with reference to the Hebrew commonwealth, namely, that when the government was changed from the patriarchal into the monarchical, there was in fact a fall from a higher order of government into a lower. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Deity was incensed against the people of Israel for asking a king, instead of a patriarchal successor to Samuel; for, by so doing, they throw their political system into an inferior condition.

Yet, royal, imperial, and monarchical government is next to the patriarchal, wonderfully sacred and venerable. We find something resembling it in the first rise and youthful spring of all ancient Edition: current; Page: [11]nations. In the Asiatic territories it has been universally cherished. And we find that kings, a series of wise and heroic monarchs, laid the foundation of all the glories of Greece and Rome. Still, however fair, monarchy has been continually exposed to the dangers of degeneration into despotism and tyranny.

Next to the imperial or regal, is that particular form of government called the aristocratical. Inferior to the regal no doubt it is, but something infinitely better than the democratic. It still maintains something of the patriarchal dignity of hereditary succession to family wealth and honors, which is the grand security of all states, though it has often been abused to purposes of pride, extravagance, and oppression.

The last particular form of government we shall mention, is the democratical or republican. The advantages and disadvantages of this form are so neatly summed up by Paley, we shall avail ourselves of his words.

“The advantages of a republic are, liberty, or exemption from needless restrictions; equal laws; regulations adapted to the wants and circumstances of the people, public spirit, frugality, averseness to war, the opportunities which democratic assemblies afford to men of every description, of producing their abilities and counsels to public observation, and the exciting thereby, Edition: current; Page: [12]and calling forth to the service of the commonwealth the faculties of its best citizens.

“The evils of a republic are — dissentions, tumults, factions, the attempts of powerful citizens to possess themselves of the empire; the confusion, rage, and clamour, which are the inevitable consequences of assembling multitudes, and of propounding questions of state to the discussion of the people; the delay and disclosure of public counsels and designs, and the imbecility of measures retarded by the necessity of obtaining the consent of numbers—and lastly, the oppression of the provinces which are not admitted to a participation in the legislative power.”

Now Cicero, the most observant of all politicians, clearly perceived that in proportion as the catholic, syncretic system of government, which combined and harmonized these several particular forms, advanced, in that proportion had the state become prosperous and durable. For it is the remarkable characteristic of this syncretic government, being unionistic, universal, coalitionary, mixed, and eclectic, to blend all that is good in the particular species, without contracting their mischiefs. Like the light of heaven, it combines all colours in a blaze of glory, which, when divided and segregated, become faint and shadowy.

Thus, according to Cicero, there can be only Edition: current; Page: [13]two principal distinctions in the kinds of government—one is the Catholic, Syncretic, Unionistic, coalitionary, and harmonic. The other is the sectarian, partizantic, divisionary and discordant. Cicero’s preference for the first kind was strong and invincible; he saw that by a manly eclecticism, a philanthropical latitudinarianism, it combined all the separate notes of political wisdom into one grand and majestic concord; and he saw that the universal tendency of all divisionary and particular governments was to produce a miserable contractedness in national politics, and to embroil the state in the interminable jars of schisms and sects, parties and factions.

Cicero’s testimony in favour of this Syncretic, Unionistic, and Mixed government, is most clearly and forcibly stated in a passage of his Commonwealth, which we here translate. “In my opinion, royalty (regium) is far the best of the three particular forms of government; but it is very inferior to that government which is composed of the equal mixture of the three best forms of government united, modified, and tempered by each other. I wish, in fact, to see in a commonwealth, a princely and regal power (placet enim esse quiddam in republicâ, præstans et regale), that another portion of authority should be allotted to the nobles, and that certain things should be reserved to the judgment and wish of the people. Edition: current; Page: [14]This constitution possesses a noble character of equability—a condition necessary to the existence of every free people, and at the same time obtains a wonderful stability; whereas particular governments easily degenerate into something corrupt. Thus absolute monarchs are apt to become despots—aristocracies, factious oligarchies—and the populace a mob and a hubbub (turba et confusio). It often happens, too, that these three kinds of government are expelled and replaced by each other. But in this Syncretic and Mixed government, which unites and amalgamates the partial forms, equal disasters cannot happen without outrageous misconduct among the grandees; for there exists no cause of revolution where every one is firmly established in his appropriate station, and there are few temptations to corrupt his integrity.”

This passage fully unfolds the Syncretic and Eclectic views Cicero entertained respecting government. He wanted to obtain a Unionistic, Universal, and Mixed government, fairly composed of kings, lords, and commons, each assisting, and at the same time correcting the other.

It is evident, then, that Cicero had no objection to an emperor or a king, in a limited monarchy or a mixed constitution. On the contrary, he expressly asserts that monarchy was essentially a better form of particular government than either Edition: current; Page: [15]aristocracy or democracy: “Primis tribus generibus (says he); longe præstat meâ sententiâ regium).

Cicero, therefore, desired to restore the monarchial government, and wished to see an emperor or king once more swaying the Roman commonwealth—a fact which will appear manifestly proved in this newly–discovered treatise, De Republica. But while he pleaded for a king, he pleaded not for a king forced on the Romans by ambition or chicanery, but a king universally approved by his political character and conduct, and legitimately elected by the open, free, and unbiassed suffrage of the senate and the people. We conceive Cicero’s sentiments in this respect may be well expressed by the opening passage in Philo Judæus’s Treatise on Princes.

“Some have desired (says Philo) that princes should be established by lot, and by the collection of ballots, and have introduced this form and method of election, which is in no way profitable to the people, inasmuch as ballot shows good luck rather than virtue. Many have arrived, by this means, at the authorities of which they were totally unworthy—rascals, whom a true prince would reject and refuse to own as his subjects; for, noblemen of high honour will not take into their service all the serfs that are born in their houses, or all those they have bought; but those Edition: current; Page: [16]only that are obedient and ready to execute their will. The rest, who are obstinate and incorrigible, whom they cannot bring under discipline, they sell them by auction in troops, as unworthy of a gentleman’s service. It is not, therefore, fitting to constitute as lords of cities and nations, those who have got possession of the government by lot or ballot, which is a deceitful and slippery thing, and dependent on inconstant fortune. When the question is the cure of the invalid, lot is not spoken of; and physicians are not chosen by lot, but are approved by experience. So when we wish to make a prosperous and happy voyage by sea, the crew do not select a pilot by lot, and send him immediately to the helm, for fear, lest by his ignorance and rashness he should cause them shipwreck, even in calm and peaceful weather, and thus destroy the lives of all on board. But he is chosen who is known to have learned studiously from his youth the art of piloting vessels; who has often made voyages, and has traversed the majority of seas; who has sounded the depths and shallows, and is acquainted with the various ports and havens. It is even so in the government of great states, and the management of public and private, sacred and secular affairs. Government, which is the true art of arts, the science of sciences, in which it would be most unreasonable to regulate our Edition: current; Page: [17]measures by the eccentric courses and irregular motions of fortune. The sage legislator, Moses, therefore, well considered this evil; for he has no where mentioned this method of balloting for a magistrate; but he approves of that only which is made by the open election and suffrage of the people: and for this reason he says—“The prince you shall establish over you shall not be a stranger, but one of your brethren;” shewing by this, that the election ought to be a matter of rational preference, exhibited by the votes of the people, with full knowledge of the character and dispositions of him they choose and appoint.”

Such was Cicero’s desire to restore the kingly power and monarchical government at Rome, that he seems to have availed himself of certain passages in the oracles of the Sibyls, those initiated prophetesses, who, having obtained some knowledge of the Hebrew prophecies respecting the advent of the Messiah’s universal monarchy, applied the prediction to the several nations in which they delivered their oracles. Now Cicero, who was a distinguished augur, and a notable master of divination, was well acquainted with these Sibylline foretellments, and appears to have made considerable use of them to promote his political designs. Cicero, therefore having found it stated in the Sibylline oracles, that “a divine king should make his appearance in the Roman empire, whoEdition: current; Page: [18]should obtain universal dominion over the world, availed himself of this prediction to enforce his pleadings in favour of monarchy; and, therefore, referring to this Sibylline oracle, he says, “eum quem revera regem habeamus, appellandum quoque esse regem, si salvi esse vellemus”—(him whom indeed we should account a king, let us also call him king, if we would be secure). The Latin words are thus rendered by Cudworth—“if we would be safe, we should acknowledge him for a king who really is so.” Thus, says Grotius (de veritate Christ.), “by the Sibyls it is stated that he was to be acknowledged as king, who was to be truly our king—who was to rise out of the East, and be Lord of all things.” The Romans, therefore (as Brocklesby affirms), found something in their Sibylline oracles that favoured the change of their government from a republic into a monarchy; and therefore in Cicero’s days a rumour was spread about by Cæsar’s party (who designed for him the honour of king), that the sibylline oracles pronounced that the Parthians could never be conquered except by a king.

Respesting these Sibylline oracles, Cicero observes—Valeant ad deponendas potius quam ad suscipiendas religiones—(“let them avail for the taking down rather than the taking up of religions”). Cudworth supposes that Cicero in this saying intimates that these oracles of themselves tended Edition: current; Page: [19]rather to the lessening than the increasing of Pagan superstitions, and that they predicted a change of the Pagan religion, to be introduced by the worship of one God. But perhaps Cicero’s words imply no more than this—that he would have the Roman senate put their state oracles to a contrary use than they had hitherto been put to, not to the increasing superstition (of the overspreading of which he sadly complaineth in his second book on Divination), but the abating and retrenching it.

Be this as it will, there is no doubt that the Sibylline oracles afloat in the Roman state, prophecying as they did of a divine and universal kingdom of holiness, justice, and peace, not only facilitated the establishment of the Christian religion (as Grotius observes), but likewise facilitated the restoration of the kingly and monarchical form of government throughout the Latin empire.

The prodigious influence which these Sibylline oracles exerted over the religious as well as political destinies of the world at that period has been noted by many cholars. They took a strong moral hold on the minds both of the Christians and the Pagans, and urged on the greatest changes in society. The heathens (says a learned author) doubted not of the truth of the predictions of the Sibyls that were quoted by the fathers. They Edition: current; Page: [20]only put another sense upon them—nay, they even proceeded so far as to own that the Sibylline verses foretold the nativity of a certain new king, and a considerable revolution. This is mentioned by Tully, in several places: moreover, when Pompey took the city of Jerusalem, it was commonly reported that nature designed a king for the people of Rome. Lentulus, according to the testimony of Cicero and Sallust, flattered himself that he should become this king that was intimated by the Sibyl. Others have interpreted this prophecy with respect to Julius Cæsar or Augustus, as is observed by Cicero and Suetonius. Virgil, in his fourth Eclogue, produces the verses of the Cumæan Sibyl, foreshewing the birth of a new king that was to descend from heaven. In short, it is most certain that the Gentiles acknowledged that the books of the Sibyls were favourable to the Christians, insomuch that the latter were prohibited to read them, as appears from the words of Aurelian to the senate, recited by Vobiscus. (On this disputed question, see Selden, Blondel, Vossius, Flower, Bryant, and Faber.)

But while Cicero preferred the monarchical form of government, and would probably have assisted in the establishment of a constitutional king, reigning with the free and spontaneous approbation of the senate and the people, and Edition: current; Page: [21]limited in his powers by the aristocratic and democratic parties, he, at the same time, frankly and fearlessly owned his objection to the kind of absolute kingship which Cæsar wished to obtain for himself. Cicero saw that this great man was aiming at the throne in an illegitimate and unconstitutional way. Instead of seeking the monarchical authority by the voluntary and unextorted election of the senate and the people, he was proceeding by a most offensive system of seduction and intimidation to the object of his ambition.

We believe that Cicero, as well as Brutus, knew how to reverence and esteem the personal merits of Cæsar. They acknowledged that he was the greatest and noblest man of his age. They conceived that his design of restoring monarchy, (as the only means of consolidating the strength of the Roman empire and of reconciling the factions that were lacerating its vitals,) was in itself glorious and patriotic; and they saw that he was of all others the fittest man to become the emperor and regent of the state; that “quiddam præstans et regale,” which Cicero thought so desirable.

But while Cicero agreed with Cæsar in some of these general desiderata of policy, he entirely disagreed with him respecting the modus operandi. Cicero wished for a limited monarchy; Cæsar aspired Edition: current; Page: [22]to an absolute one. Cicero wished that this limited monarchy should be established in a constitutional and legitimate way, by the free and unbiassed choice and approbation of the senate and the people; Cæsar, on the other hand, wished to obtain his supremacy by means of military intimidation over the aristocracy, and pecuniary corruption over the democracy. All this Cicero protested against; he saw it would expose the Roman empire to all the evils of tyranny. He therefore sided with Cato and Brutus, and might have expressed his sentiments in the language that Shakspere has given Cæsar’s noblest antagonist,—“As Cæsar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.”

In the same way, Cicero knew how to honour and extol a conservative aristocracy for its proper uses and services. He commended his brother–senators, so far as he could do so, for their philanthropical and patriotic proceedings; but he was by no means blind to their abuses and maladministrations; and he laid the lash of his invective, without compunction, on those who deserved the excruciations of his tremendous satire.

Cicero has also vouchsafed occasional eulogy to the democratic portion of the commonwealth; for he knew how to honour true merit and patriotism wherever he found them. But his political Edition: current; Page: [23]predilections were evidently rather aristocratical and anti–democratic. He saw that although the democrats were sometimes useful, when in their proper place they supported the popular interests, yet, on the whole, they were a very dangerous, precipitous, and violent body, continually straining after political dignities they knew not how to maintain; clamorous for perilous innovations which would have laid the glory of the state in ashes; rioting in all the reckless exasperations of schisms and factions; and eager for all revolutions which place honour, and authority, and wealth at the mercy of chance and confusion.

And thus Cicero appears to have discerned the great moral of history—that the first steps to democracy are the first steps to ruin: that the monarchical principle is the only one which can permanently exalt and consolidate the energies of a state: whereas the accessions of democracy, into which all nations have a tendency to degenerate, are certainly accompanied with that virulent spirit of partizanship and faction, which, by dividing a nation’s strength, inevitably hurry it to decay; as was the case with Greece, and Rome, and Venice.

This conviction induced Cicero to oppose every obstacle he could to democratic corruption. Among other securities against this, he upheld the ancient Roman system of open voting by poll, (per capita) whereby the voters were induced to Edition: current; Page: [24]give their suffrages in the full presence of their fellow–citizens, to that mongrel style of secret voting by ballot, (per tabellas) which crept in during the later years of the republic, corrupted the moral courage and frankness of the ancient Romans into a sneaking and pitiful hypocrisy, and introduced infinite factions among the lower orders.

On this doctrine of Cicero, Montesqieu has made a remark, which is worth quoting, from his “Spirit of Laws:”—“The law (says he) which determines the manner of giving suffrages is likewise fundamental in a democracy. It is a question of some importance, whether the suffrages ought to be public or secret. Cicero observes, that the laws which rendered them secret towards the close of the republic, were the cause of its decline. But as this is differently practised in different republics, I shall here offer my thoughts concerning the subject.

“The people’s suffrages (continues Montesqieu) ought, doubtless, to be public; and this should be considered as a fundamental law of democracy. The lower sort of people ought to be directed by those of higher rank, and restrained within bounds by the gravity of certain personages. Hence by rendering the suffrages secret in the Roman republic, all was lost: it was no longer possible to direct a populace that sought its own destruction.”


The celebrated treatise of Cicero, “De Republica;” or the Commonwealth, so highly extolled by ancient writers, and so diligently sought by the scholars of modern Europe, was at length rescued from the slumber of ages, by Angelus Maio, librarian of the Vatican, formerly of the Ambrosian library of Milan, and now raised to the dignity of a Roman cardinal.

In a palimpsest volume, containing a part of Augustin’s Commentary on the Psalms, this learned and ingenious person found that the prior writing, of much greater antiquity, had consisted of the long–lost books of Cicero, De Republica, which he wrote in his fifty–fourth year. Before this, nothing was known of “The Commonwealth,” save a few fragments which had been preserved in the writings of Macrobius, Lactantius, Augustin, Nonius, and others.

Maio published his recovered MSS. (containing the main part of “The Commonwealth,”) at Rome, in 1822. Steinacher published these fragments Edition: current; Page: [26]at Leipsic in 1823. Villemain translated and explained them in Paris, 1823. The work has also been translated at New York, in the United States, 1829; if we may trust the Cyclopædia Americana, by Mr. Featherstonhaugh.

“This work of Cicero, ‘De Republica,’ (say the Editors of the Cyclopœdia Metropolitana,) consisted of a series of Discussions, in six books, on the Origin and Principles of Government. Scipio being the principal speaker, while Lælius, Philus, Manlius, and other personages of like gravity, take part in the dialogue. Till lately, little more than a fragment of the sixth book was understood to be in existence, in which Scipio, under the the fiction of a dream, inculcates the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. In the earlier portion of the work, now recovered by Maio, Scipio discourses on the different kinds of constitutions, and their respective advantages, with a particular reference to that of Rome. In the third book, the subject of Justice is discussed by Lælius and Philus. In the fourth, Scipio treats of Morals and Education. In the fifth and sixth, the duties of Magistrates are explained, and the best means of preventing changes and revolutions in the constitution itself.”

“This (says the Cyclopædia Britannica) is, perhaps, the most valuable contribution which has been made to classical literature in modern Edition: current; Page: [27]times. And it is sufficient to immortalize the learned, sagacious, and indefatigable scholar to whom we are indebted for it; consisting, as it does, of no inconsiderable portion of that treatise which the contemporaries of the Roman orator and Statesman all agree in regarding as his masterpiece.”

It is no wonder, therefore, that the recovery of Cicero’s “Commonwealth” by Maio in 1822, made a most immense stir in the literary world. It was criticised and quoted by all the leading periodicals of Europe and America. Senators and lawyers instantly availed themselves of the long–lost, latefound treasure; and it diffused new light and energy through every department of political science.

It has now taken its eternal station among the grandest monuments of classical antiquity; and the reverence and admiration it commands are as great as ever, though the first excitement of its recovery may partially have subsided. It is time, therefore, to give it that fixed and extensive influence on the political studies of the British people, which it can only secure by a popular translation in their native language.

As Maio recovered the lost “Commonwealth” from a palimpsest parchment, it may be necessary to explain this word to the general reader. The word παλιμψηςτος, according to the Greek lexicographers, Edition: current; Page: [28]is derived from παλιν (again) and ψαω, or ψαιω, (to scrape.) Calepin, Ainsworth, and other Latin etymologists, finding the word palimpsest sometimes written palinxest, have chosen to derive it from Ω̄αλιν and ξεω (to rub.) Thus, Calepin defines it to be, “membrana abrasa et deletitia;” and Ainsworth, “a sort of paper or parchment used generally for writing things the first time, and foul, which might be wiped out, and new wrote in the same place.”

Cicero himself uses the word in this sense in a letter to the lawyer Thebatius, who had written to him on a sheet thus rubbed. “Your letter (says he) is excellent in all respects. As to your writing in palimpsest, I admire your economy; but I wonder what there could have been on this billet which you preferred rubbing out to not writing at all, unless it was one of your briefs. I hope you won’t thus obliterate my epistles to insert your own,” &c. Catullus and others use the word in the same sense.

M. Maio found the MS. of Cicero’s “Commonwealth,” written in large antique letters, on a palimpsest parchment, which had been partially erased and grated off by the monks, in order to insert the Commentaries of their favourite Augustine on David’s Psalms.

It was a matter of the greatest nicety and severest labour to recover the precious words of Edition: current; Page: [29]Cicero, for the superincumbent Commentary of the worthy father was written in very solid characters. Yet, by dint of critical acumen, almost unrivalled, and a most unflinching perseverance, this admirable scholar has rescued these glorious fragments of antiquity, and left them as an indefeasible inheritance to us and our children.

M. Maio has prefixed a very learned and masterly preface to his publication, in which he traces the history of Cicero’s Commonwealth from its early date, through the long and intricate periods of the middle ages. It is peculiarly interesting to observe the intense and eager search which the great heralds of European literature made for the lost Rpublic during this lapse of time. The search was not less anxious and universal than the fabulous inquiry of Isis for the mangled body of Osiris, or of Ceres for her ravished Proserpine, or of Orpheus for his vanished Euridice. But, alas! it was still more unavailing, and men of transcendant genius and scholarship laboured in vain for centuries to regain the eloquent treatise, which a happy chance has now thrown into our hands.

We shall, therefore, take the liberty of translating from Maio’s Latin preface those passages which best elucidate the history of this illustrious treatise. We believe this is their first appearance in a living language.

Edition: current; Page: [30]

Of the authors that have noticed Cicero’s Commonwealth, from the Christian Era to the Seventh Century.

It is easy to believe that Cicero’s Commonwealth must have been received by the ancients with intense admiration, when we reflect on the fame of the author, the excellence of the subject, and splendour of the style. Cicero himself tells us, that this, his treatise, was read by Atticus with the utmost relish and satisfaction. Cælius also informed Cicero that these, his political works, were universal favourites. They must soon have attained a very extensive circulation, as is evident from the multitude of ancient authors who mention them. Suetonius eulogizes them in a distinct book. They were cited by Seneca, the elder Pliny, Fronto, Gellius, Macrobius, Eulogius, Servius, Philargyrius, Juvenal the Scholiast, Lampridius, Nonius, Charisius, Diomed, Victorinus, Nectarius, Jerome, Ambrosius, Boetius, Isidore, Priscian, and more particularly by Lactantius and Augustin, each of whom have quoted very splendid passages. Indeed, I believe it was from the title of Cicero’s work de Republica, that Augustine derived the conception of the Edition: current; Page: [31]noblest of his own compositions—de Civitate Dei. That Livy read the political writings of Cicero, cannot be questioned; and we may suspect the same of Dion Cassius, Arnobius, Amianus, Marcellinus, Apuleius, Cyprian, Tertullian, Aurelius, Victor Ampelius, and others. Whether the ancient grammarians wrote comments on this great work of Cicero, we know not; probably, Victorinus might have done so, as Schottus and Patricius fully persuaded themselves. Both these scholars rely on the authority of Jerome, who mentions the Comments of Victorinus on Cicero’s Dialogues, by which name these books may be understood. Nor was this work by any means unknown to the Greeks, though most of them, content with their own national literature, affected to despise that of Rome. Indeed, the Greeks possest so many political treatises in their own language, that they had little need to consult Cicero’s work on the subject, which was notoriously derived from the Platonic fountains. Didymus, however, thought it worth while to draw his bow against Cicero’s politics; but he was speedily refuted by Suetonius, as Amianus and Suidas inform us. Nor is this to be wondered at, since the politics of Plato were exposed to many antagonists even among the Greeks, as Zeno, Aristotle, and Athenæus. The judicious Quinctilian also has noticed Cicero’s politics. In a Vatican palimpsest there Edition: current; Page: [32]likewise exists a Greek political author, or rather some fragments of one. He is neither very ancient, nor very recent—the style of writing belongs to the tenth century—I will not be positive respecting his age. That politician whom Photius has noticed (cod. 37), so well agrees with the Vatican writer, that he appears to be the same man as the writer of the Justinian age, and perhaps may be that Petrus Protector so famed for his political learning. This Vatican Anonymous, whoever he may be, wrote some books, Ω̄ερι πολιτικης επιστημης (on political science). In the fifth book, which treats on the Art of Government (the same subject which occupied the fifth book of Cicero’s Commonwealth), he divides his discourse into several chapters, in one of which he institutes a comparison between the Platonic and the Ciceronian politics, and gives the palm to Cicero. Very fairly, therefore, did the learned Frenchman, Bernardi, who bestowed so much pains on Cicero’s Commonwealth, suspect that Photius’s anonymous Grecian devoted his attention to the imitation of Cicero’s politics. It fortunately happens that we are enabled to publish the fragments of both these works from the Vatican MSS.

Edition: current; Page: [33]

On the authors who have noticed Cicero’s Commonwealth from the Seventh to the Twelfth Century.

After Isidore, that is, after the Christian writers of the seventh century, I know not that any one cites the Republic of Cicero earlier than Gerbert, the Frenchman, who, in the tenth century, from being a monk of Florence, an abbot of Bobio and Rheims, became archbishop of Ravenna, and at length, Pope of Rome in 999, under the title of Sylvester II. His learning was so extraordinary for the times in which he lived, as to bring on him an accusation of magic. He constructed spheres, observed the stars through tubes, invented a clock, and made hydraulic organs, on which he played with scientific skill. He also wrote a Latin poem on Music, and is supposed to have introduced the Arabic numerals, together with the game of chess, into Europe. In his 87th epistle, requesting Constantine, the schoolman, to visit him, he says, “Take care of yourself, and also of the writings of Cicero on the Commonwealth, those against Veres, and others, which the father of Roman eloquence wrote in defence of so many of his countrymen.” At that time, therefore, Edition: current; Page: [34]the political works of Cicero were considered extant, since Gerbert orders them to be brought to him without hesitation. But as the Vatican Codex of the Republic was brought to Rome from the Abbey of Bobio, founded by St. Colomban, then under the authority of Gerbert, who was passionately fond of collecting books, it is not too much to believe, that it was the identical Bobian Codex conveyed to Gerbert by Constantine; that there, in after times it was written over by the monks, and at length, after many ages, brought back to Rome, deposited in the Vatican library, and now fortunately discovered by myself. However this may be, we see John of Salisbury, in the 12th century, quoting passages in Cicero de Republica, which we now find only in our edition of it. That quotation especially respecting the poets is much longer in the Saresberian than in Augustin. And in another passage, though he might have taken the beginning of it from Macrobius, the subsequent sentences could only have been derived from the reading of the original. We need not wonder that John of Salisbury should have cited these books, since he lived only two centuries after Gerbert. And Lipsius has told us that he found many touches of the ancient purple in this monkish writer, and splendid fragments of a brighter age. In the same age, Peter of Blois states that he had read Cicero’s Commonwealth. Edition: current; Page: [35]Petrus Pictaviensis likewise quotes a passage from the same work; from which Barthius infers that Peter must have perused the Republic entire.

On the expectations of discovering Cicero’s Commonwealth in the subsequent Centuries.

In subsequent periods, two Greek writers, we allude to Panudes and Gaza, the first of whom flourished in the 15th century, the other somewhat later, translated Scipio’s Dream into the Greek language. But we need not suppose that these Greek interpreters possest the original MS. entire. For Scipio’s Dream, divided from the political portion of the work, occurs in many collections of MSS., besides appearing in the works of Macrobius. We may, therefore, affirm, that after the 12th century, the knowledge of the political writings of Cicero was confined to few, though a report of their existence was still prevalent.

Express mention is indeed made of the books of Cicero’s Commonwealth with other works of the same kind, which Francis Petrarch, under the order of Pope Clement VI., diligently examined at great labour and expence. We have Petrarch’s testimony Edition: current; Page: [36]to this point, in a very prolix epistle, which treats of Cicero’s writings. But his search for the Republic was unsuccessful; and he tells us that he despaired of ever finding it. He was equally unsuccessful in recovering the works of Varro, which he declares he perused when a boy. But to return. Leonard Aretino tells us that Cicero’s Republic was diligently sought for in the time of Pogius, who recovered so many ancient MSS. Writing to Pogius, in the year 1416, to congratulate him on the recovery of Quinctilian, he says, “There is no ancient work, with the exception of Cicero’s Republic, which I more eagerly desired to peruse. Pogius himself was most diligent in seeking for the lost Republic, at the instigation of Francis Barbaro and others. Writing to a friend, he says, that he had deceived himself in the expectation of finding the Republic, as the MS. he supposed to contain it, was nothing more than a copy of Macrobius, including Scipio’s Dream; but that he did not despair of its recovery, for a certain scholar had told him where it existed, and that he would go and hunt for it as soon as possible. As Cardinal Bessario is reported to have offered him a thousand guineas for the discovery of Cicero’s Republic, and as Pogius was a client of his, we must suppose that Bessario employed Pogius in this kind of literary investigation, in which no man was ever more successful.

Edition: current; Page: [37]

John Leland, who edited some works of the British writers, relates a current report, that a copy of Cicero de Republica existed towards the end of the 15th century in the library of William Tilley, where it was destroyed by fire.

John Sturmius, in the year 1552, thus writes to Roger Ascham:—“A certain person in this neighbourhood has promised me the books of Cicero’s Commonwealth; I have sent to him six times. If he be but as good as his word, who will be happier than your humble servant? I shall assume all the senatorial gravity of the ancient discipline, if I can but get a sight of them. But as men are now–a–days, I fear ’tis a false report. If it be true, I will let you know, &c.”

Three years after this, Roger Ascham writes to Sturmius thus:—“Card. Pole asks me, whether I have ever seen Cicero’s Commonwealth. He tells me that he has sent a thousand guineas to a certain Polish gentleman, to seek for these books, which he had given him hopes of discovering. I immediately repeated him what you had told me respecting these books, and he requested me to write you again on the subject, that we may know the truth.”

Andreas Patricius, a Pole, in his preface to the fragments of “The Republic,” writes thus: “When I had inscribed these pages, and was silently reflecting on the loss of these inestimable books, Edition: current; Page: [38]my friend and patron, Philip Padnevius, Bishop of Cracow, informed me that he had heard from the late Albert Crisius, a very polite and learned gentleman, that he had seen the first four books of “The Republic” during his embassy to England, in the year 1557, in a certain monastery. On his return, he wished to purchase them and take them with him; but he was informed that the MSS. had unfortunately been stolen in the mean time.”

Peter Ramus, (a great admirer of Cicero,) who lost his life in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, thus expresses himself in the preface to Scipio’s dream: “Whether the six books of ‘The Commonwealth’ have perished, or whether they are kept under the seal of secrecy, as I hear by certain very religious gentlemen in the state, as the Sibylline oracles of old, I dare not affirm.”

Respecting the political works of Cicero, which some have sought in Sarmatia, wonderful things are reported by Bullartius, in his Life of John Zamoscias. He tells us that certain Polish noblemen, after the year 1576, retired from the siege of Pleskof into the interior provinces, and there found, among other monuments of antiquity, the books of Cicero’s “Commonwealth,” addressed to Atticus, written in golden letters. Walchius has either overlooked or despised this passage of Bullartius; for he says not a word on the subject. Edition: current; Page: [39]Bullartius would have more easily persuaded us to receive his report, if he had told us that Greek MSS. were to be found in these regions; for no Latin monuments appear to exist there.

Since M. Mai wrote this notice, Professor Gustavus Munnich, in Cracow, gives an account of the Sarmatian copy of Cicero de Republica, which in 1581 was in possession of a Valhynian nobleman, and has since disappeared. Munnich’s work is entitled “Ciceronis libri de Republica. Notit. Codicis Sarmat. Gottingen, 1825.” According to him, Gozliski used this copy in his work “De perfecto Senatore.” It is true that Gozliski’s “Accomplished Senator” is written according to the Ciceronian scheme of policy; but after a careful perusal we do not find any thing like plagiarism from Cicero’s “Republic.”

In the seventeenth century, continues M. Mai, Caspar Barthius writes thus: ‘I recollect the testimony of a brave man and a learned document, which prove that the books of Cicero’s “Commonwealth,” existed in Germany a few years ago.’ ‘Near the city of Brunswick,’ says J. H. Meibomius, ‘in Saxony, is the Rittershusian monastery, which contained an extensive library. Among the MSS. was one comprising “The Republic.” But this sanctuary of learning has been violated by common soldiers, and other ignoramuses, who have destroyed those treasures of literature which no lapse of ages can repair.”

Edition: current; Page: [40]

The same Barthius is said to have told Daumius, that before the thirty years’ war, there existed, in the library of Fulda, in some parchment volumes, the books of Cicero’s “Commonwealth;” but that the violence of the soldiers had destroyed many of these literary treasures.

Such are the words of M. Mai, in relating the history of Cicero’s “Republic,” up to the happy period when he had the good fortune to discover and to decipher the palimpsest MSS. which contained this invaluable composition, in 1822.

In order to carry on the history of this treatise, and to illustrate some of the most important doctrines which it unfolds, we cannot do better than translate the admirable discourse which M. Villemain prefixed to his French Version in 1823. This Discourse is the more important as it embodied the best information on the subject, and as it exercised a very decided influence on the politics of Europe and America.

“Of all the ancient monuments (says M. Villemain) of Latin literature, there were few whose loss occasioned more regrets than the Dialogues of Cicero de Republica. There were few whose discovery could have more profoundly excited the attention of cultivated men, and the curiosity of the public. The great portions which are still deficient in the historic masterpieces of Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus, could scarcely awaken a keener interest.

Edition: current; Page: [41]

But the extent of these losses has deprived us of all hope of their recovery. We cannot suppose that the ingenious process which gives to the literary world the MS. which we now publish, will ever be successful enough to restore the vast fragments of these famous historians, and this process is unhappily the only means of communication which remains to that antiquity which is closed against us by death and time. Every other plan is impracticable and desperate. The cinders of Herculaneum are steril as the grave. These treasures of the human mind, which fire seems to have conserved by consuming—these MSS., calcined by flame, in which we still trace letters and words, and which at first excited so many hopes, have in reality satisfied none. They are so delicate, that we destroy them by a touch. For more than thirty years, with incessant toil and diversified talent, we have only derived from a considerable number of MSS. a few mutilated pages of a Treatise on Music, and some Observations on the philosophy of Epicurus. Within a recent date, chemistry, the most analytical and inventive, has exhausted all its efforts to unfold some of these rolls of Herculaneum, and to separate the pages which now form a black and compact mass, externally sprinkled with written characters. The celebrated Sir H. Davy, author of this last test, has scarcely been more successful than his predecessors. Edition: current; Page: [42]He has, according to his own avowal, melted many of these blocks without being able to extract any useful result. And science remains mute and discouraged before this fruitless depository and inheritance which she cannot enjoy.

Be this as it will; an Italian scholar, M. Angelo Mai, possessed by that love of antiquity which has produced so many prodigies of patience, turned his attention to another source of discoveries, from which he has derived treasures that are invaluable to science, and to which we are now indebted for Cicero’s Treatise on the Commonwealth.

Learned men had long remarked, that in the ignorance and penury of the middle ages, they not unfrequently grated the ancient parchment MSS. in order to inscribe them with copies of fresh works, more agreeable to the taste of the time, and which for the most part were preserved by the same preference which had transcribed them.

One of the most learned men in Europe, Father Montfaucon, made this observation, and apparently tried it on a great number of ancient MSS. Let us hear him explain himself, with that candour of erudition at once so respectable and so fascinating. We quote a part of a Dissertation on the Discovery and Use of Cotton Paper.

‘The use of cotton paper (says he) came in Edition: current; Page: [43]very conveniently, at a time when there existed a great dearth of parchment, which has occasioned us the loss of many ancient authors, in the following way. In the twelfth century, the Greeks, plunged in ignorance, bethought them of grating or scraping the writings of ancient MSS. on parchment, and of obliterating their traces, as far as they could, in order to inscribe them with the books of the church. It was thus, to the infinite prejudice of the literary world, Polybius, Dion, Diodorus Siculus, and other authors of whom we retain only fragments, were metamorphosed into triodons, pentecostaries, homilies, and other ecclesiastical books. After an exact search, I can certify, that of the books written on parchment since the twelfth century, the main part are palimpsests, whose ancient writings have been obliterated. But as all the copyists were not equally skilful in thus effacing the primitive authors, we find some in which we can read at least a part of what they intended to erase.’ (Memoires de l’Academie des Inscriptions, vol. vi. p. 606.)

If this same fact happened in the East, where barbarism was never so absolute, and at Constantinople, where there always existed so much bad literature, this miserable resource was adopted far more frequently in the Roman empire, which, so often overwhelmed by barbarians, was left in the sixth century, almost destitute of industry, and Edition: current; Page: [44]plunged in the grossest ignorance. It was about this time that, in the Italian monasteries, the only inviolable asylums where faithful librarians preserved the ancient MSS., they too often resolved to grate these precious parchments, in order to cover them with some new writing. These Latin copyists were often as fortunately imperfect in their craft of grating as those of Greece; but scholars have neglected, till recent times, to examine these double MSS., which remained unnoticed in the libraries.

The learned Angelo Maio, keeper of the Ambrosian library, was one of the first who set himself to examine these literary relics, and to recover those fragments of ancient genius in these neglected MSS., which he has published to Europe, under the designation of palimpsests.

It was thus that in 1814 he discovered and published fragments of the three discourses of Cicero, which lay buried under the verses of Sedulius, a Latin poet of the Middle Ages. I will not attempt to express the transports which this learned scholar must have felt at the moment of the glorious achievement, when, in these old parchments, preserved in a corner of the library of Milan, he beheld, between the barbarous lines of a versifier of the sixth century, the names and the phrases which revealed to him a work of Cicero. It was one of those philosophic yet Edition: current; Page: [45]intense gratifications which had been lost since the fifteenth age, and which we had so little prospect of regaining.

This authentic and incontestible discovery encouraged the patient researches of M. Mai. After some time, an immense MS. of the seventh century, which contained the voluminous acts of the council of Calcedon, presented him on its parchment leaves traces of a preceding writing. These leaves were in fact the collected shreds of many ancient MSS.; and the learned investigator recovered from them new fragments of Cicero, with an ancient commentary, long passages of Symmachus, a celebrated orator of the fourth century, the Greek and Latin epistles of Fronto, an orator equally admired at the decline of the Empire, and finally, some Latin letters of Marcus Aurelius. M. Mai successively published these precious relics; and in 1817 joined thereto the fragments of a very ancient commentary on Virgil, which he had found in a recovered MS. of St. Gregory’s Homilies.

It is easy to conceive that this new method of recovery must, from its very nature, leave many lacunes and gaps, many breakages and damages in the relics thus singularly rescued from destroying time. We observe, likewise, that the application of this process is exposed to hazards which are not all equally propitious. The pumice Edition: current; Page: [46]or grater of the copyist was sometimes exercised on masterpieces, sometimes on inferior works; sometimes it has happened to these palimpsests, as to human prejudices, which overwhelm and obliterate each other, without leaving truth the better or the worse for the change. The sixth age effaced the blunders of the fifth, only to transcribe its own; and thus the foundation and the superstructure were equally worthless.

But M. Mai, and we render homage to his erudite candour, has collected with the same critical accuracy and enthusiasm all the first traces of the characters he could discover under the subsequent writing. He has published the sophistical antitheses and nugacities of Fronto and Symmachus with as religious a scrupulosity as that he now exerts in commenting on Cicero’s Commonwealth, discovered by the same method, and an accident still more fortunate.

This literary devotion, so respectable and so necessary in long and patient investigations, is an additional proof of the perfect sincerity of the learned editor. But here our proofs are superabundant, and doubt on one side is as impossible as fiction on the other. M. Mai, summoned to be librarian of the Vatican at Rome, on account of his earlier labours, and applauded by all the scholars of Europe, made new researches in this unrivalled library. ’Twas there he had Edition: current; Page: [47]the good fortune to discover a MS. formed of the disconnected and half effaced pages of Cicero’s Dialogue, De Republica, which, in the sixth century, or later, had been overlined by a new writing, containing the Commentaries of St. Augustin on the Psalms.

On this MS. M. Mai laboured, beneath the scrutiny of all the scholars of Italy. These precious pages he transcribed literally, without addition, noting the lacunes and gaps with a mournful exactness, preserving the antique orthography, and indicating by italics the least conjectural criticism he was obliged to insert to supply a letter or word irreparably obliterated.

It is sufficient to cast a glance over the learned and ingenuous account of his labours in this respect, to be convinced of the authenticity of his publication, so substantially, we might say judicially, evinced. But among men of taste this is still more strikingly proved by the grand characteristics of patriotic elevation, genius, and eloquence, which distinguish the writings we translate. This kind of moral proof, far more agreeable to the reader than dissertations on the orthography of old words, or on the probable dimensions of letters and points, will naturally conduct us to some details respecting this work of Cicero; the period when this great man composed it; the idea he entertained of it, and expressed in his Edition: current; Page: [48]other writings; the character of the few fragments which had been preserved in a detached form, and their relation to the new discovery of the actual treatise. Lastly, by the aid of this discovery, let us examine the contents of this celebrated treatise, hitherto so imperfectly known, and notice the nature and origin of the doctrines it unfolds, and the passages of political history it illustrates.

In accomplishing a design too arduous for our weakness, we shall be at least consoled by the ever present contemplation of the thoughts of a great man — a fruitful source of intellectual aggrandizement, a noble pleasure, which elevates the understanding, and enables it to enjoy what it cannot rival.

Although time had handed down but few fragments of this celebrated treatise, posterity conceived a high idea of the treasure it had lost, being well aware of the value Cicero himself set upon it, in his letters and in his other works; for there is none of his writings to which he makes more frequent allusion, or of which he speaks with more predilection and joy. We observe by his letters to Atticus, that he began it in the fifty–second year of his age, some time after his banishment, and at a period when, without having resumed his influence, he was occupied in political and juridical studies. Thus, it was not like most Edition: current; Page: [49]of his philosophic treatises — a kind of refuge which he sought in his misfortune and exhaustion. But he devoted the full energy of his agitated life to express these thoughts on the first objects of his ambition and love — policy and patriotism; and this fact explains the very decided and practical character he has given to the present work, if we compare it with the speculative Commonwealth of Plato.

He prepared for its composition by studying the laws and antiquities of the Roman state, and consulted for this purpose the works and the library of the learned Varro, the friend of Atticus. He determined to give his treatise the form of a dialogue, in which Scipio, Æmilianus, and Lœlius were to be the principal interlocutors. He indicates this plan of construction in his letter to Atticus, mentioning his wish to dedicate to Varro one of the prologues which he designed to prefix to each of his six books.

“May I be able to accomplish it (he adds); for I have undertaken a very important and difficult task, and one which demands a great deal of leisure—the very thing in which I am most deficient.”

This same year, during his residence at Cuma, he employed himself in writing this treatise, which he always describes as an arduous and laborious undertaking. “But (says he), if I succeed Edition: current; Page: [50]in making it what I wish, it will be labour well spent; if not, I shall throw it into the sea, which is under my eye while I write it, and I shall commence something else, for I cannot remain idle.” (Scribebam sane illa quæ dixeram Ω̄ολιτικα, spissum sane opus et operosum; sed si ex sententia successerit, bene erit opera posita; sin minus, in illud ipsum dijiciemus mare quod scribentes spectamus, et alia aggrediemur, quoniam quiescere non possumus.”—Ad. Quin. 2. 14.)

Another letter of Cicero to Quintus, dated the same year (b.c. 53), is entirely occupied with this important work, which had made some progress. We shall take care not to break and mangle the valuable details which this letter affords us, which at once declares the author and the great man.

“You ask me (says Cicero), how I am getting on with the work which I undertook to write during my stay at Cuma. I have not relinquished it, nor do I mean to do so; but I have more than once changed my whole plan of composition, and the arrangement of my ideas. I had finished two books, in which, assuming for my epoch the nine days of feasts under the consulate of Tuditanus and Aquilius, I introduced a dialogue between Scipio Africanus, Lœlius, Philus, Manilius, Tubero, Fannius, and Scævola, both sons–in–law of Lœlius. The conversation was altogether respecting the best form of government, Edition: current; Page: [51]and the characteristics of the true citizen; being divided into nine days and nine chapters. The construction of the work advanced propitiously, and the dignity of the personages lent weight to the discourse. But when I had read these two first books at Tusculum, in the presence of Sallust, he told me it was possible to give the style still greater authority, if I spoke in my own person, not being a Heraclitus of Pontus, but a consul, and a man who had taken a part in the greatest affairs of state; that all I attributed to personages so ancient would appear fictitious; that in my book, in which I had discussed the art of oratory, if I had with a good grace avoided introducing in proprià personà any rhetorical illustrations, I had put them in the mouths of gentlemen, I might at least have seen; and finally, that Aristotle himself, in all that he has written on government, and on the qualities of a great man, speaks in his own name. This remark struck me the more forcibly, because, by my plan, I had barred myself from discussing the greatest events of our country, since they are of a much later date than the ages of my personages. In truth, this was the very thing I wished from the first to avoid, lest in describing our times, I should offend our cotemporaries. I desire altogether to escape this danger, and to adopt the form of a dialogue with you. However, if I come Edition: current; Page: [52]to Rome, I will send you what I first wrote; for you may well conceive that I cannot abandon these first books without some annoyance.”

This confidential detail explains to us all the regret which Cicero must have felt in finding his long labour disappointed; and this regret sufficiently manifests the reason why, in spite of these changes of opinion, he resumed his first design, continued the dialogue as he had commenced it, and hastened to finish it with that rapidity which he always combined with discrimination, and which in a life so laborious, and a mind so agitated and restless, appears to have been one of the most remarkable properties of Cicero’s genius. But he took care to limit his treatise to six books.

It was, therefore, under this form that the work was published a little while after the period when Cicero was so eagerly engaged in its composition. It appears that this was given to the world just before his departure for Celicia, in the fifty–fourth year of his age, a. u. 701. Soon after this event, the most talented of all the eminent men, whose letters are found mingled with those of Cicero, we mean Cælius, who constantly wrote him the news of Rome during this period, finishes his first epistle, full of the intrigues of the senate and the forum, in these words: Tui libri politici omnibus vigent. Your political treatise is universally Edition: current; Page: [53]

Classical Philology

Coverage: 1906-2015 (Vol. 1, No. 1 - Vol. 110, No. 4)

Moving Wall: 3 years (What is the moving wall?)

The "moving wall" represents the time period between the last issue available in JSTOR and the most recently published issue of a journal. Moving walls are generally represented in years. In rare instances, a publisher has elected to have a "zero" moving wall, so their current issues are available in JSTOR shortly after publication.
Note: In calculating the moving wall, the current year is not counted.
For example, if the current year is 2008 and a journal has a 5 year moving wall, articles from the year 2002 are available.

Terms Related to the Moving Wall
Fixed walls: Journals with no new volumes being added to the archive.
Absorbed: Journals that are combined with another title.
Complete: Journals that are no longer published or that have been combined with another title.

ISSN: 0009837X

EISSN: 1546072X

Subjects: Language & Literature, Classical Studies, Humanities

Collections: Arts & Sciences II Collection, JSTOR Essential Collection


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *